Written by Corbett Smith
Lovejoy girls fall in 3A title game; UT commit Peyton Little scores record 43 for Abilene Wylie
AUSTIN -- If state titles were awarded based on tenacity and relentlessness, Lovejoy would be the Class 3A girls champion.
But games are decided by points, and for the second time this season, Abilene Wylie's Peyton Little got the better of Lovejoy.
Little -- a junior verbally committed to Texas -- scored a 3A tournament-final record 43 points, leading last year's runners-up Abilene Wylie to a 66-58 win and the 3A title.
"To come out and play good, and hit shots, it's been my dream," Little said.
Little's 43 broke the previous 3A best mark of 42, set by Pflugerville's Karen Thompson in 1979.
The game was a rematch of a 73-66 Lovejoy loss in its own holiday tournament, where Little scored 33.
In the final, Little scored in bunches, including a six-point burst to tie the game at 9-9 early in the first quarter, and another six-point run at the end of the first half to give Wylie a 29-23 lead. She also scored Wylie's final nine points on free throws.
Yet, every time the game looked as though Abilene Wylie (26-14) was pulling away, Lovejoy would make a run.
"We have tremendous heart; we never gave up," guard Kathryn Odom said. "We knew we could make a run, it was just a matter of us getting stops."
Lovejoy whittled an 11-point deficit to three, 45-42, with 5:13 remaining in the game.
But Little sparked another six-point run. She stole a pass from Lovejoy freshman Mikaehla Connor, driving the length of the court for a lay-up. Then, on back-to-back possessions, she found two teammates for easy shots under the basket.
The frenetic style that Lovejoy (29-11) played with such success in the semifinal against Fairfield didn't work as well in the much-tighter officiated final.
Lovejoy struggled with foul trouble from the start, with four of its starters with two fouls each at halftime.
With 2:33 remaining in the third quarter, three Lovejoy starters had fourth fouls. Lovejoy was called for 27 fouls, 11 more than Wylie.
"It really took us out of our game with what we were trying to do," Lovejoy coach Kelly Connor said.
Nevertheless, Lovejoy hung around, getting great contributions by a trio of freshmen -- Shani Rainey, Mikaehla Connor and Cassie Conarty.
Connor -- matched up with Little from time to time -- scored 12, while senior post Courtney Smith led Lovejoy with 13. The senior guard tandem of Katherine McBride and Millie Rivera -- who had combined to average over 30 points in the playoffs -- struggled to find a rhythm, collectively scoring 17 on 5-for-21 shooting.
"It's definitely been a really great experience," Rivera said of her team's run. "I know we wanted to win, but still. The memories will go on with us forever."